And then they came for me.

Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: Public Square | Tags: , , , |

South Asia is a busy place these days, especially in the view of the international community and their respective news media.

India is constantly in the news, and even seems to be gaining some ‘smart power‘ clout. Afghanistan and Pakistan are always being talked about, well, for obvious reasons. Bangladesh, Nepal and certainly Bhutan aren’t nearly as prominent (sometimes, as with Bhutan, by choice.)

But the country that isn’t getting nearly enough coverage right now is Sri Lanka.

The mostly Buddhist island country south of India seems to be on the brink of a decades old civil war that has seen the death of tens of thousands of civilians. The war, in the model of the Yugoslavian war or the Chinese occupancy of Tibet, involves the majority Sinhalese persecuting the minority Tamils. This resulted in the creation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist group that has carried out atrocious acts of violence (including assassinating the Indian Prime minister in 1991, in one of the first political uses of suicide bombing)

Now, with more than 70,000 dead and innumerable others affected by the war, the Sri Lankan army, after having taken back the LTTE capital and cornered them into a small area in the north of the country, seems like they’re about to end the war.

[The] fighting is concentrated around a shrinking circle of jungle in the Indian Ocean island’s northeast, where the military said it has all but surrounded the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists.

Trapped inside the 175 sq km battlefield are tens of thousands of civilians, whom aid agencies, the government and a growing list of nations have said are being held in the war zone by the Tigers, under grave threat of harm from the fighting.

Along with concerns about the remaining civilians in the area, there’s always the question of the government returning to their policies of persecuting the Tamils, especially now that the threat of LTTE retaliation has been dealt with.

Whether the American media covers the potential final moments of the war or not, it’s imperative that the new administration stays abreast of the developments and the actions of the Sri Lankan government in the name of destroying the ‘enemy’ in a dangerous endgame.

On a related note, one of the more touching moments of the war came when the editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader, left a final editorial to be published if he were killed.

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency (addressing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa) has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.

Go ahead, read the entire thing here.

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3 Responses to “And then they came for me.”

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Sri Lanka is another example of where American foreign intervention and policy in non-existent or failing. The situation is escalating and a neutral third party mediator needs to get involved to try to create some sort of peaceful agreement between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka government. This is a type of situation that Samantha Power has warned about in her book The Problem from Hell. If the U.S. or other forces are slow to act, this could easily escalate into pre-genocidal conditions. Oh the legacy of imperialism…

Actually, in my opinion, third-party intervention in Sri Lanka could be a very dicey thing. As I said in the other post, India tried it, one of the few times we actually sent our own army to a war that we were unconnected with (outside of working with the UN peacekeeping force), and what did we get in return? Dozens of casualties and an assassinated Prime Minister.

Instead, simply more scrutiny from the international community, rather than one other country, would do Sri Lanka a world of good (forgive the pun.)

I agree we need more media attention about Sri Lanka, because the media is constantly reporting about the Afghans or Iranians, or Israel. While the conditions in many other regions are bad, Sri Lanka’s seems dire and it is appalling that the international community does not provide more immediate attention to solving the problem. Sri Lanka has a mutually beneficial relationship with the US, so maybe if we were to start the media campaign, others would follow-without militarily involving ourselves.


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